With the Regional Competition behind me and the National Competition about two months away, I consider the pros and cons of competing at yoga or asana or whatever it is that we are demonstrating when we get up on stage in a competition.
Yoga itself is not about competition; it's not about being the best. Yoga is not even about perfection, whatever that may mean. It is also not really about the postures, the asana. In those ways, yoga competition goes against the essence of the practice: spiritual awakening and connection.
What is the competition about, if it's not about yoga? Confidence, courage, self-improvement, refinement, attention to detail, to name a few.
Preparing for competition has made me assess my practice objectively. What am I capable of at this moment in time? What can I do well and consistently? In addition, what can I improve sufficiently in a relatively short amount of time? This has changed the focus of my practice. Usually I play the long game, practicing what feels right for the day, striving for slow, balanced progress. With the pressure of competition, I have also started "pushing" a small handful of postures, deepening and refining them more than usual. This focus has improved my postures and honed my attention to detail in my practice.
The most surprising element of competing thus far has been the sheer terror of getting up in front of judges and an audience and demonstrating my practice. What if I fall? What will they think? Am I deep enough? Am I still enough? Some postures can be challenging enough even when no one is watching. Add a room full of strangers and judges critiquing your every breath... you get the picture.
So, to put it lightly, I was nervous when I got up on stage. I knew I would be. The challenge for me was not to remove or even diminish the nerves. The challenge was to get on stage and do my best anyway. Stand, fall, tight, sweaty, terrified - no matter what I was going to give it a shot.
I don't deny that there are confusing and negative aspects to yoga competition. I try to focus on the positives and the benefits and not get wrapped up in the weirdness and negativity. I try to avoid letting it turn into a ego contest or an "I win, you lose" situation. I stay focused on the improvement to myself and my practice, and the tackling of my fears.
This journal honors my ongoing experience with the practice, study and teaching of yoga.
1) Sridaiva Yoga: Good Intention But Imbalanced
2) Understanding Chair Posture
2) Why I Don't Use Sanskrit or Say Namaste
3) The Meaningless Drudgery of Physical Yoga
5) Beyond Bikram: Why This Is a Great Time For Ghosh Yoga